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FGD 56: Travis Hamonic’s homecoming (5pm MT, SN West)

After a bit of a letdown game against the New York Rangers on Friday night, the Calgary Flames (28-19-8) are back at it with an eye towards redemption in Brooklyn against the New York Islanders (27-23-6). The Flames are coming off a game on Friday where they coughed up a third period lead, while the Islanders made a miraculous comeback in their game against Detroit. It’s Travis Hamonic’s first game back at Barclays Center since his draft day trade to the Flames.

The game starts just after 5 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

The Flames

Projected lines, courtesy of Daily Faceoff:

Gaudreau – Monahan (A) – Ferland
Tkachuk – Backlund (A) – Frolik
Bennett – Jankowski – Hathaway
Lomberg – Stajan – Lazar

Giordano (C) – Hamilton
Brodie – Hamonic
Kulak – Stone

Mike Smith starts for the 47th time this season. He’s 22-16-6 with a 2.54 goals against average and .921 save percentage. He’s backed up by David Rittich. The expected healthy scratches are Matt Bartkowski and Marek Hrivik.

The Flames’ penalty kill has allowed a goal in each of the last six games. The Flames’ power play has out-scored the opposition’s in zero of the past six games – they were even in their 7-4 loss against Tampa Bay, but have otherwise lost the special teams battle. Both groups need to be better.

Johnny Gaudreau enters the evening tied for second in the National Hockey League in scoring with 65 points. Gaudreau’s brilliance has been overshadowed somewhat by Smith’s heroics in net and the team’s overall inconsistency, but the smallest person on the Flames has easily been their biggest offensive weapon.

The Islanders

Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:

Lee – Tavares – Bailey
Beauvillier – Barzal – Eberle
Ladd – Nelson – Clutterbuck
Johnston – Cizikas – Chimera

Leddy – Boychuk
Hickey – Pulock
Pelech – Aho

Jaroslav Halak starts for the Islanders. He’s 17-16-4 with a 3.23 goals against average and .908 save percentage. He’s backed up by Thomas Greiss. The expected scratches are Dennis Seidenberg, Alan Quine and Tanner Fritz. Remember, the Islanders’ Sebastian Aho is a 21-year-old defenseman from Sweden, while the other Sebastian Aho plays for Carolina, is from Finland and plays right wing.

The Isles had four power play goals during a five minute power play that got them back into their game on Friday, ultimately leading to an overtime win. Their power play is sharp, but it has to be to keep them in games. The Islanders have statistically the worst goaltending in the league, and the only team with worse penalty killing is the Edmonton Oilers. If the Flames are ever gonna jump-start their power play, tonight’s a golden opportunity.

Injury Report

Flames: Daniel Pribyl (knee) and Kris Versteeg (hip) are on the injured reserve. Troy Brouwer (facial fracture) is hurt but on the active roster.

NY Islanders: Nikolay Kulemin (upper-body), Shane Prince (undisclosed) and Calvin de Haan (upper-body) are on the injured reserve.

When Last We Met

These teams haven’t played each other yet this season. They split the two meetings last season, with the home team winning each game. They’ll meet again on Mar. 11 in Calgary.

With the Belmont Park arena deal solidifying, this could be one of the last games the Flames play in Brooklyn. Good riddance, as the Flames have yet to win a game at Barclays Center.

The Numbers

CGY NYI
Wins 28 27
Points 64 60
Adjusted Corsi 52.3% 47.2%
Power Play 16.8% 22.0%
Penalty Kill 79.0% 73.6%

Know Thy Enemy

Here are some nice folks that discuss the Isles:

Sum It Up

It’s the fourth game of a six game road trip, and a chance for the Flames to make up for a crappy effort against the Rangers.

FGD BROUGHT TO YOU BY ATB FINANCIAL

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  • Alberta Ice

    Hey, Draisatil has his money in the bank; and soon will McDavid. The only aims they have left this season are a Hart trophy (w/o much team heart) and beating the Flames twice more for trying to keep us out of the playoffs. It’s really going to be interesting to see how they walk through the Cap Bowl this summer. Anyway, Flames need to get a win and not rely on other teams. They control their destiny. GFG.

    • Mickey O

      Watched the Sharks – Oilers yesterday. Apart from having about 10 players dressed that would be 4th liners, or bottom pairing defencemen, on a good team a lot of them are playing like they just don’t care. They aren’t even happy for each other when they score.

      I’ll bet that there is huge underlying problems in the dressing room. Lucic was terrible, and Maroon completely mailed it in. Those two guys should be veteran leaders on that team.

      Their home PK is the worst ever. Another amazing stat from the Oil – their goalies have let in a goal on the first shot 10 times this season. Ouch.

      • Cfan in Van

        “their goalies have let in a goal on the first shot 10 times this season.”

        That is truly amazing. That’s probably the most painful event, as a fan (or player, for that matter) trying to get into the flow of a hockey game.

        Nightmares of Elliot last season.

      • FlamesFanOtherCity

        How is it that they start the game allowing quality chances on the first shot? Have watched a few game (all I can stand with the announcers) and McDavid and Draisaitl are cheating towards the O-zone long before the team has control. He may be projected to be close to 97 points, but who cares if you can’t win. Sacrifice some offense for a little defense.

  • freethe flames

    Most importantly tonight take care of your own business. Then who do you cheer for Sharks or Ducks; Sharks I think and hope for no 3 point games. It will be interesting to see if the Janko line steps up after being criticized by their GM; this really needs to happen. They need to find their game if this team wants to take the next step. Right now the 1st line is paying well as is the 4th line; Backs line needs to better as well.

  • BendingCorners

    Flames are a good team that gets by without a full effort on most nights. That may not be enough against Tavares and co. Hopefully they play hard for 60 minutes. Coach needs to figure out a way to punish them when they are lazy. Otherwise even if they make the playoffs they won’t last long. Lets see if there are any lineup changes tonight – ice time is a good cudgel.

    • freethe flames

      “Punish them”? I would prefer he held them accountable and motivate them. They also need to hold themselves accountable and when they get to that stage then they can last longer in the playoffs. I like Janko but I think he has hit the NHL rookie wall; he will find his game again but hopefully in short order. Although Bennett is still young his “excuse time” has to soon be over; he’s in his third year. I was always tired of the excuses Oiler fans made for the $6m young guys after they had been in the league for 3 or 4 years so it’s time to hold Mr Bennett accountable. Step up young Sam; step up keep it simple.

      • Stockton's Finest

        I agree with you Free about the 3rd line. You know Janko is a favorite of mine, but the kid needs to get out of his own head and just play. He went through a stretch like this last year then just flipped a switch and went in a tear. Let’s hope that switch is on now

      • Mickey O

        They showed a picture of Brouwer last game, it looked like the puck caught him high on the right cheek bone. Gulutzan said he’s week-to-week and they will re-evaluate after 10 days. I can’t see him being out that long. (Tempted to add “unfortunately” to that last sentence, but I’ll pass.)

  • Mickey O

    Bad call by Gulutzan playing Smith in net. I thought he said they were going to try and manage his starts? On this 6 game road trip, you would think that Smith with 4 games, and Rittich with 2 would have been ideal. This would have been the ideal time to start Rittich and save Smith for Boston and Nashville on Tuesday and Thursday respectively.

    It isn’t as if Rittich has been a poor back-up, his numbers are excellent. If Smith plays 5 games on this trip, how exactly is that managing his ice time? Bad call by Gulutzan in my opinion, a very bad call.

    • MontanaMan

      Let’s hope Smith pitches a shutout and makes you eat your words! In other news, I’m very interested to see how Bennett responds to a terrible effort and a call out from the coach.

      • Mickey O

        I hope any Flames goalie pitches a shutout in a game. I want to see the team do well. But if managing Smith’s starts is a priority (which it should be for a guy who will be 36 next month) then starting Rittich in this one should be an easy decision. He should have got the the start against the Sabres as well. I’m not hating on Smith, just looking at how things shape up for the rest of the season.

        Bennett? I don’t know. He tries to do too much. When he plays with complete snarl he’s still effective. One way to motivate himself might be to get into a scrap tonight. We’ll see.

        • MontanaMan

          I know you’re not a hater and I get your thoughts on Smith but the coach/trainer know him best and know if he’s tired. He’s in great shape so I think if he’s good physically and mentally, let him play.

          • Joeyhere

            Smith is a competitive guy he will always tell the coach he’s ready and he feels fine. But he has shown this season that toughest games are when he’s done a long stretch. Let him feel a bit hungry –
            60 games on the year would be a comfortable target and give the team a chance to really see what we have in Rittich

    • Cfan in Van

      Totally agree. Smith has still been good, but I think there’s a reason his numbers have been sliding a bit. He needs rest. IF they make the playoffs, you know they’re going to ride him for every game, and he’ll be totally burnt by that point.

      • oilcanboyd

        I guess the biggest factor in Smith wanting (I say this because if he says he is ready to play a game coaches will give him the go) to play most games now is all the time off in January.

  • Hockeyfan

    Zero help from the welfare disgraces up north, but no surprise there. Get er done Flames, keep on the gas boys, dogfight here on in, while the welfare disgraces happily tank again for more top 5 picks.

  • Off the wall

    My wife asked me where we should go for a much needed dinner together last night.

    Little does she know because of my superstitions, I picked “Mr. Mikes” Steakhouse.

    I wanted to, treat my wife to some good cuisine, while supporting the M’s on our team.
    Weird, probably? But I feel like a member of the team, even if it’s to support them in my own eccentric, superstitious way.

    In addition, much to my delight, we had an opportunity for my grown daughter, her husband and my sweet granddaughter to join us. All grandchildren are sweet, right?

    My daughter remarked about how much she loved the food and the restaurant, however we both knew it was each other’s company that made the ambience and meal outstanding.

    I guess my point is this, you can have the best meal, but it’s each other that makes it special.

    I believe in today’s parity of hockey, you need to rely on each other. You stick up for your teammates, you support each other when others are struggling, you create an ambience of trust and respect-family like if you will.

    That’s what makes a team special. Yes it’s 23 players, all with various talent and strengths and their own weaknesses.

    How many times have you heard, “we’re like family” in this dressing room?

    All the statistics aside, it’s the thing that separates teams from playing hockey to win-to playing for each other in a winning attitude.

    Once I see this as a normal behaviour, I won’t be concerned about the results.

    They’ll speak for themselves.

  • Off the wall

    The Flames are a tale of two teams. One at home. One on the road.

    I prefer the road one, but who doesn’t?

    The Flames top 2 lines have 101 of Calgary’s 154 goals this season. Wow! That’s crazy.
    Secondary help anyone?

    The Flames are 1-6 vs the Islanders in the last 7 games, regardless of the venue they played at. Not promising.

    Both teams need these points to stay in the playoff race. 2 points for NYI, puts them back in the Wildcard.
    2 points for the Flames vaults them back in the Pacific, an important game is understated.

    Although the odds of us winning is not looking good, (Sunday games and our record at Barclays ) I’m going to say we win this one 4-2.

    Flames: Smith 22-16-6.
    2.54GAA. ——.921SV%

    Islanders: Halak 17-16-4
    3.23GAA—— .908SV%

    The difference will be Mike Smith.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    On well more than half the clubs in the NHL, Brodie is a first pairing defenceman. He is 27 and has two years left on a very cap friendly contract.

    Tell me why 31 other clubs wouldn’t be beating down Tre’s door if the GM announced TJ was available?

    Why wouldn’t TJ be worth a lottery pick? A 27-year-old first pairing defenceman with two very affordable years left on his contract. That screams early first round pick to me for any club that is serious about improving.

    • freethe flames

      for one thing there are 30 other teams not 31. Secondly if he would be a top pairing defender on 1/2 them it is 15 teams. TJ has not been as good since he has been forced to play on the L side and since he has been moved away from Gio. There are moments when he looks like the top pairing D that you speak of and then there are the other moments. However the same can be said for Hamilton and he is playing with Gio. Is there an upside to trading TJ and would he make some teams better; yes. But here is the question; who do we have to replace him? Is Kulak ready?

  • RKD

    The Isles would be a lot higher up with better goaltending, Barzal is sick the dude has been playing out of his skull. No easy game trying to contain Barzal, Tavares, Lee, Eberle.

  • Chucky

    The second power play unit demonstrates how little Gulutzan understands about teamwork. First and third line wings with second line centre forwards combined with a second and third paring defenseman. If this is actually the optimum combinations why not use this as a line? The FST line. Maybe the big concern is that Tkachuk would hurt the first line or Frolik would ruin the third line. Or maybe Gulutzan is just desperate because he can’t figure out why his miraculous system doesn’t work.